Overcoming the slope

Overcoming the slope

Grand Designer Thomas O’Hare had a sloping site to deal with, so how did he come in £50,000 under budget?

By Laura Snoad |

Thomas O’Hare and his wife Dervla used lots of glass, white walls and clever design ideas to create a contemporary new-build Grand Design that sits perfectly with its surroundings.

Grand Designs talks to Thomas about the challenges the couple battled on their self-build.

What advice would you give to other people looking to build their own Grand Design?

Carefully consider your budget and the type of building that you want to achieve, and then look for an architect who is right for both of those things.


Photo: Alun Callender

You had problems with getting planning permission because of the steep slope of the site. Can you offer any guidelines for choosing a plot?

Sites that have planning challenges often come at a lower price, and are potentially better value. But if you want to take on a difficult site, you need to hire someone who is capable of delivering your design within the restrictions of the plot.

What advice would you give to those approaching the planning process for the first time?

Take the amount of time you’ve allocated for planning and double it. Many people assume that you ask for permission and are given it, but unless it’s a bona-fide ready-to-go site, this is rarely the case.

How did you adapt the design to the lie of the land?

The difficulty was the change in level, which we handled by building over three floors. The hill faces south so we terraced the building up the slope, providing all the rooms with a southerly aspect. This created useful solar gains.


Photo: Alun Callender

How did you come in £50,000 under budget?

I work in the construction industry, so I was able to make savings due to expertise, experience, and contacts. A good tip is to get three or four quotes for every single job. And don’t hire machinery for the whole duration; make a schedule and only bring it on site when needed.

How can other people ensure their construction goes smoothly and to time and budget?

I wouldn’t recommend project managing unless you know what you are doing. It’s a very steep learning curve. Employing a professional will save you money and heartache. After you’ve completed the design and the construction schedules, try to stick to them. Don’t change too much once the plans are signed off.

Has building your own home lived up to expectations?

It’s the best thing we’ve ever done. That’s not to say it wasn’t a challenge, but most of the problems were to do with the topography and planning.

grand designs thomas o'hare

Photo: Alun Callender